by guest writer
The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) uses as reference and starting point the novel with the same name by Nelson Algren. Its sinuous path to the screen goes back to the days of 1949, when American actor John Garfield got interested in playing the main male character, Frankie Machine. As the sudden death of John Garfield occurred in 1952 due to the high pressure of the Anti-Communism Hollywood witch-hunt, the project’s course was interrupted. Another important factor would impeach the film’s release anyhow, the Motion Pictures Association of America’s resistance against movies dealing with drug abuse.
Otto Preminger fought censorship when he decided to do it and saw in it an opportunity to break the Code’s restrictions on approaching drugs’ use in movies. Yet, the continuous misunderstandings between the novel’s writer and the director were to cause the screenplay a little delay as well. For the original material’s adaptation Preminger finally chose Walter Newman. The most important change in the story line is related to the main protagonist, Frankie Machine, who struggles to change his life and fate. Containing strong noir elements, the film goes beyond this genre and concentrates more on the hero’s moral regeneration turning into a psychological drama. Frank Sinatra’s interpretation of the drug addict is probably his most notable and controversial one. A brilliant realistic movie about losing one’s way!